Zip lining has provided the answer for many adventure enthusiasts who want to experience the thrill of rushing through the air without parachuting out of a plane or bouncing on a shock cord. As with any recreational activity, riding a zip line comes with risks that can be minimized by adhering to safety protocols set in place by industry professionals.
The Golden Rule
The Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) sets the building and maintenance standards for zip line courses. The ACCT requires courses to be inspected annually by a qualified third party. The ACCT approval means the course was built by and is maintained by professionals. For your own safety, only patronize companies that adhere to those standards. Ask each company how often it inspects the courses for any signs of irregularities: the answer should be "daily."
Gear and Gadgets
Zip lining participants must wear a safety harness. The harness is clipped onto overhead cables that guide the participant through the course after he leaves the platform. A professional guide trained by an accredited ACCT trainer should be the only person you trust to clip your harness to the cable. Some companies will require you to wear a helmet, while others will not. Dress in comfortable clothing and remove any dangling jewelry.
Braking Basics and Platform Perils
Many courses have hand brakes that allow participants to slow down before they reach the next platform. The brakes give the rider more control and allows for a more comfortable dismount. If you need that sense of security, ask the course you plan to ride if it has the brakes. Course platforms should have safety rails. Platforms are often very high off the ground, and a lack of rails on them can be dangerous, especially if participants feel dizzy or disoriented when they come back to land.
Restrictions and Requirements
Zip lining isn't for everyone. You should be capable of at least light exercise for a safe trip. Before you try it, consult with a doctor if you suffer from conditions such as high blood pressure, neck or back pain, dizziness, seizures, extreme fear of heights or heart problems. Age, weight and health restrictions vary depending on the company. As of 2013, Zip Zone Tours wouldn't take up riders weighing less than 50 or more than 260 pounds. Zip Zone Tours didn't allow pregnant women to ride the zip lines.
Just Say No
While it may be obvious not to use a zip line made from wire and strung up in a friend's backyard, some zip lines can be bought online and may appear safe at first glance. A reputable company is not likely to offer free or cheap rides because they have a high overhead for maintenance and employee training. Read reviews from other customers and do your research before choosing a company.